DSH Perfumes Mata Hari

The world of natural perfumery has become richer and even more intriguing now that Dawn Spencer Hurwitz’s prolific creativity has expanded to her natural offerings. In fact, she has so much to choose from, that a page on her website has been dedicated to those perfumes that are at least 85% natural, many of which are 100% natural. Mata Hari, one of DSH Perfume’s 100% natural perfumes, was released this past fall for the Outlaw Project, a beautifully productive response to the appropriately maligned IFRA restrictions.

Mata Hari is quite the outlaw as she contains (hold on!) oakmoss and a slew of other natural essences that the IFRA has deemed too big and bad for us consumers. If you frequent the perfume blogs you know the resounding response has been “Bring It On!” And Dawn did just that.

With the flesh and blood inspiration of Mata Hari, Dawn has created a full-bodied and sexy fragrance. Mata Hari was an exotic dancer who allegedly became a spy for Germany in the early 19th century. When Greta Garbo portrayed her in the 1931 film, Mata Hari’s fate as a prototype for the femme fatale was sealed.

Mata Hari, the perfume, explores the fleshy warmth of the seductive dancer more so than the edginess of a femme fatale due to the peach and apricot accord that runs throughout its evolution. Mata Hari does begin with an initial burst of bergamot and lemon, but the soft and sweet peachiness surfaces within seconds alluding to the zaftig sway of female curves.

Other fruity notes like cassis and blood orange augment this sensuality, but on my skin, the apricot, peach and slightly woody aspects of osmanthus absolute predominate. Mata Hari also possesses the spiciness of clove, black pepper and cinnamon which conjure olfactory images of vintage perfumes (no spice racks here). It’s also teeming with florals like mimosa, ylang ylang, champaca, rose, jasmine and tuberose which have such a seamless blend that they move fluidly alongside the spicy notes, amplifying the vintage quality of Mata Hari.

Like many classic perfumes, Mata Hari fully exploits the rich and earthy natures of patchouli, vetiver, and oakmoss as well as the sweetness of vanilla, benzoin and tonka bean. But it’s the woodiness of the drydown that brings all of these aspects; fruity, floral, earthy and sweet into a cohesive whole. Peru balsam, Australian sandalwood and Texas cedarwood help bridge the sensuality of the peach infused osmanthus absolute and the luxurious feel of a well-aged vintage perfume brimming with rich florals and exotic spices. The sandalwood is especially effective as it provides a buttery smooth backdrop that gives all of these essences a medium to settle into and flourish.


Mata Hari is available at DSH Perfumes and is a limited edition. It is $80 for a 5ml flask or $225 for a 0.5 oz vintage bottle.


Posted by ~Trish

Disclosure: A sample was sent to me for consideration by DSH Perfumes. The opinions in this review are my own. I was not financially compensated for this review or any other.

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IFRA 43rd Amendment. A few natural perfumers weigh in.

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The International Fragrance Association (IFRA) represents the fragrance industry and puts out guidelines for safe usage of fragrant chemicals and essential oils in perfumes and skincare. Recently, they released their 43rd amendment, which has caused an uproar in the perfume blogging community. This amendment puts restrictions on the use of several natural ingredients like oakmoss, ylang ylang and jasmine because of their potential to be allergens. For many, this means deep concern that beloved classics like Chanel’s No 5 and Patou’s Joy will either be reformulated or die. Both are unacceptable results for the die-hard perfumista. This is terribly disheartening for me to consider, but makes me nowhere near as concerned as I am for the small independently owned perfumeries’ and apothecaries’ well being. My concern is not purely altruistic of course. The notion of not being able to access what has become my favorite purveyor of jasmine based scents, In Fiore, and many other fabulously talented natural perfumers’ creations, is a fate I simply do not want to consider. 

 

As to be expected, there is much discussion about whether or not the IFRA really has the consumer’s best interest at heart, or if there are possibly legal issues, turf issues, or (ahem) monetary issues behind these restrictions. My skeptical nature says of course that’s the case! In terms of the legal aspect, it seems that a warning label that states: May cause skin irritation, discontinue use if this occurs. In rare event of severe allergic reaction please seek medical care would be enough to cover the perfume companies’ behinds. Has anyone read the label of a hairspray canister lately? I have one that reads: INHALING CONTENTS MAY BE HARMFUL OR FATAL. How’s that for a warning? My skeptical nature also wonders who funded the studies that deemed these natural essences such a public hazard (jasmine in particular) and how rigorously they were undertaken. But knowing that I am not going to overturn the IFRA’s amendment, or somehow get Chanel up in arms to protect their jasmine legacy, I took to corresponding with some natural perfumers that I admire greatly.

 

Let’s begin with Julie Elliott of In Fiore who quelled my fears about her signature essence, jasmine, having to disappear. She reviewed the 43rd amendment, and believes that for her products, the restriction percentages are workable and within a healthy range for skincare and should be fine for her perfumery as well. Ms. Elliott is a classically trained aromatherapist and intentionally avoids potentially toxic and reactive essential oils, or oils with too many contraindications, so efficacy and safety are paramount at In Fiore. Ms. Elliott also does not foresee any problems with her jasmine suppliers and said, “jasmine is the soul of In Fiore so we will do our best to keep them in business.”

 

Ayala Sender of Ayala Moriel Parfums addressed this issue on her blog, Smellyblog. She also does not seem overly concerned about these restrictions, and plans to keep using oakmoss as she always has. And like Ms. Elliott, she is dedicated to keeping her suppliers in business. As she states on her blog, “This is the least I can do to support the oakmoss distillers and to ensure that they can keep producing oakmoss absolutes and that entire families of fragrances will not be erased from the face of the earth.”

 

Roxana Villa of Illuminated Perfumes provided me with a concise and eloquent statement about the restrictions.  Being an artist in several mediums, she feels that if someone were to limit her palette, she would simply adjust to those limitations or rebel. For example, Ms. Villa has created an oakmoss accord constructed from botanical and natural essences, without the use of actual oakmoss or synthetic oakmoss. Because of her dedication to ingredients that are pure, and have a vital life force, Ms. Villa would not compromise her art due to these IFRA restrictions. In the case of the oakmoss, she was able to adjust. But if rebellion is called for, so be it! Creativity and rebellion, now isn’t that the spirit of great art?

posted by ~Trish

Jasmine (original painting) by alisonhinks on etsy.com

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